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Blogs and Stories

October 20, 2020
Amy Wade Carotenuto

Deadly Debris

Our last article was about the dangers of not disposing of PPE properly, but it’s not just PPE. It is said that Americans generate between five and seven pounds of trash per day per person.

Some of that trash can take an amazingly long time to decompose. Tin cans may take up to 50 years, so rinsing out and recycling is so incredibly important.

Have you ever driven past a landfill on a windy day? If you have, you most likely saw plastic grocery store bags blowing everywhere. Those bags could have been recycled by dropping them back at the store. Or better yet…. If more people brought canvas bags to the grocery store, those plastic bags would not have been used in the first place.

Those grocery store plastic bags take over 10 years to decompose. Meanwhile, they are dangerous to animals. My pets have tangled themselves in plastic bags that fell on the floor in the moments that it takes to put groceries away, so obviously, it’s easy for wildlife to get caught in them when they are disposed of improperly.

Six-packs of soda usually are strung together by plastic rings. Cats and small wildlife often get heads caught in those. Please cut apart all sections of plastic six-pack rings, even the small inner diamond shaped ones.

Discarded fishing lines can trap the legs, wings or neck of water birds. A fishhook may get stuck in a bird’s throat. They can even get led poisoning if they swallow lead fishing weights.

Even our Halloween decorations can be dangerous to animals. Small animals can get seriously tangled up in imitation cobwebs. Not that we should skip decorating, of course not! Just check your decorations daily to be sure no one is accidentally trapped.

Years ago FHS responded to a call about a small cat who had her head caught in the lid of a McFlurry at McDonalds. The hard plastic lids fit on the cup, then had a smaller opening at the top, which was the perfect size to catch her neck. The kitten was rescued, but there were enough similar stories nationally that McDonalds changed the design of the lid.

Another Flagler case was a multi-agency rescue of a raccoon who got it’s head stuck in a peanut butter jar while attempting to get a snack. Time was of the essence because the animal would soon run out of oxygen. Our officers responded as well as the Fire Department and Deputy Steve Williams from FCSO. The raccoon was quickly caught and Deputy Williams was his hero when he removed the glass jar.

So, to avoid cases like what happened to the raccoon, we should think like a hungry animal. Food, especially something as tempting as peanut butter, most be rinsed out of jars prior to recycling. Most recycling venues are OK with you leaving lids on, which ensures no one could get their head caught.

If you are not already carefully disposing of trash and recycling with curious and hungry animals in mind, hopefully I have encouraged you to do so.

  • Step one - Don’t litter.
  • Step two - Store garbage and recycling in wildlife-proof containers.
  • Step three - Clean out recyclables so that wildlife are not attracted to the food remains.


  • Your actions could be the difference between life and death for an animal.
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